Your dog is showing signs he has achy hips and joints. Or perhaps his skin is looking a little flaky. And you’re wondering if you should add a health supplement to his diet. To help you with this decision, we sat down with Dr. Sasha Naugler and Dr. Laura Wiles with our Vet Council for a Q&A on health supplements for dogs.

Q: What advice do you have for pet parents who are thinking about giving their dogs a supplement?

Dr. Wiles: I always recommend checking with your vet before starting any supplements. And don’t start supplements until your pet is 6-9 months old when they are usually fully grown. If your pet is already on prescription foods, they may not need them, although sometimes additional supplements can be helpful, for instance, if your pet is on a gastrointestinal (GI) friendly diet, they may still benefit from a probiotic during stressful events. Pets should be able to handle multiple supplements if they have multiple problems to address. But the correct dosage is very important. If pet parents forget to give their dog a supplement, they should not double up. It’s best to just give the next dose at the scheduled time.

Q: How long does it take for supplements to start working?

Dr. Wiles: It depends on the supplement. Probiotics will work rather quickly, while hip and joint and skin & coat can take weeks to build up in the system.

Q: What are the benefits of hip & joint supplements?

Dr. Naugler:   Joint supplements are a mainstay used for the potential protective effect to our pets’ joints. This supplement, and giving them lots of exercise, can greatly enhance their mobility in their golden years. Dr. Wiles: Large breed dogs are especially susceptible to hip problems. Starting them on a joint supplement when they are young is very appropriate for helping to keep their joints healthy.

Q: What are the benefits of multivitamin supplements?

Dr. Naugler: These can be very beneficial for supplementing your pets nutritional needs as they grow, mature and age. However, they may not need it, depending on their diet. It is always recommended to consult with a veterinarian as previously discussed.

Q: What are the benefits of probiotic supplements?

Dr. Wiles: Dogs susceptible to GI issues, such as chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea, can benefit from a having a probiotic regularly. Probiotics can also be used during periods of stress – such as boarding or traveling – to help prevent GI issues. Dr. Naugler: Many pets may benefit from probiotics. In some studies they have been linked to greater immunity for respiratory tract diseases, skin diseases and gastrointestinal infections. Additionally, if your pet has any kind GI issues, a probiotic may be a valuable part of your pet’s health maintenance.

Q: What are the benefits of supplements for issues such as dry, oily, itchy and flaky skin and coat?

Dr. Naugler: Skin issues are complicated and sometimes become so severe that a veterinarian must be seen. However, when trying to keep your pet’s skin healthy, supplements may be a valuable part of the total picture, along with a healthy diet, soothing shampoos and good physical exercise (this can help a pet keep his/her mind off of licking and scratching when it‘s not severe).

Q: What are the benefits of supplements that reduce stress?

Dr. Naugler: As with humans, taking supplements for reducing stress and calming our nerves can help, but are a more mild form of stress control. Pets can tell when we are packing and changing our behaviors, so this can be very helpful. Use calming chews for a week or two in advance so that the whole process goes better.

Q: What are the benefits of allergy supplements?

Dr. Naugler: Giving seasonal allergy chews year round is a good thing and will likely not hurt, but pet parents need to understand that this is a complicated issue and often takes many therapies to solve the problem. This should only be one part of the prevention. Frequent shampoos (with the appropriate shampoo and conditioner), flea control, diet and allergy chews are part of the overall picture. When it gets too bad, as when there is hair loss or severe itching, pet parents should consult a veterinarian for a complete regimen, with medications. However, even when veterinarian prescribed medications are used, it’s still important to maintain the shampoos, flea control, diet and allergy supplements. Q: What’s the benefit of giving health supplements that are soft chews over tablets? Dr. Wiles: Soft chews are certainly more palatable than tablets. Most pet parents will enjoy giving their pets a “treat” as opposed to trying to disguise a tablet in something tasty. If you’re thinking about giving your dog health supplements, check out Vet’s Best Soft Chews, a line of seven health supplements with simple, once-a-day dosage. They’re veterinarian-formulated and made with natural, high quality ingredients. Vet's Best Soft Chew Supplements for dogs